Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) being given to Danish footballer Christian Eriksen following his sudden collapse during a Euro 2020 match earlier this month was a stark reminder that a cardiac arrest can strike anyone. It can happen without warning, anytime and anywhere. Including in the workplace.
According to The Journal of Paramedic Practice about 60,000 people suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year in the UK and the average rate of survival was just 7-8% at the start of 2019.
Some workplace accidents can cause cardiac arrest, but they don’t have to prove fatal. Evidence from observational studies suggests that survival from cardiac arrest can increase by up to four times if a bystander starts CPR promptly. For this reason, some argue companies should train their employees in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
What is Cardiac Arrest?
An electrical problem in the heart causes cardiac arrest. This stops the heart from pumping blood throughout the rest of the body, including the lungs and brain. This blood flow is crucial because our major organs need blood and oxygen. Oxygen starvation to the brain causes the person to become unconscious and stop breathing. Often there are no symptoms before a cardiac arrest, and without immediate treatment it can be fatal.
The process differs from a heart attack which occurs when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked. The heart muscle is robbed of blood and, if left untreated, will die because it is not getting enough oxygen. Some cardiac arrests happen because a heart attack has caused the heart to develop an abnormal rhythm.
Administering CPR helps to pump blood around the person’s body when their heart cannot. It requires a person to use chest compressions to mimic how the heart pumps blood throughout the body and to give them a series of rescue breaths. It should only be used if someone is unconscious while not breathing or not breathing normally.
Benefits Of CPR Trained Staff
The greatest benefit is the increased chance of saving a life. A cardiac arrest can lead to death within minutes. The longer a victim goes without help, the greater the chance of death and the greater the toll on the body if they survive. If an employee experiences cardiac arrest, how their co-workers respond could save their life. CPR training can help within those crucial minutes. Properly performed CPR will keep blood pumping through the body and can give medical professionals enough time to arrive at the workplace.
CPR also reduces recovery time for those who survive. Leaving the body too long without flowing blood can cause serious health complications. Prompt CPR can help reduce the impact cardiac arrest has on a patient and keep them from suffering. Minimizing damage to the patient’s heart can also reduce the chance a cardiac arrest will happen again. Prompt CPR can also reduce the amount of recovery time needed and get the employee back to health sooner.
Proper training can also help employees recognise how to avoid potential accidents in the workplace. The training will teach employees about the types of accidents that would require CPR. Recognising the risk factors can help your employees avoid such situations.
An employee dying in the workplace will hurt morale. Your other employees might blame themselves upon realising they could have made a difference. Offering CPR training at a workplace can ensure employees avoid the resulting guilt and trauma.
CPR training is one way employers and companies can show employees they care about the wellbeing of their staff. People are also more motivated to work for a company that cares.
As well as CPR training, companies can have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) at the workplace and train employees on how to use it. A defibrillator restores a normal heartbeat by giving a high energy electric shock to the heart of the person suffering cardiac arrest. You can contact the British Heart Foundation for advice regarding defibrillators.
Current evidence suggests it would be helpful to have an Automated External Defibrillator available at a workplace if a cardiac arrest requiring the use of an AED is likely to occur at least once in two years, and if the time for a conventional ambulance service to deliver an electric shock cannot reliably be achieved within five minutes of a victim collapsing.
Schools, colleges, nurseries and playgroups can apply to get government funding to install a defibrillator machine at their premises at a reduced cost.
There is no specific legal requirement for employers to provide CPR training or defibrillators. The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to ensure the provision of equipment and facilities that are adequate and appropriate in the circumstances for enabling first aid to be rendered to employees if they are injured or become ill at work.
Employers do not have an obligation to provide first aid for members of the public. However, many organisations do and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) strongly recommends that employers consider the public and others on their premises when assessing their first aid needs.
The level of first aid provision required depends on workplace circumstances. Each employer needs to assess what facilities and personnel are appropriate. Factors to consider when assessing the risk of cardiac arrest will include the number of people using a facility and the risk of cardiac arrest occurring at the site. The HSE recommends that a company with 5-50 workers should have at least one person trained in first aid and another first-aider for every 50 workers after that. Employers can delegate the responsibility for carrying out an assessment and advising on first aid to an occupational health service.
If someone suffers a cardiac arrest, they must receive CPR promptly to give them the best chance of survival. However, a survey in 2018 revealed nearly a third of UK adults would not perform CPR if they saw someone suffer a cardiac arrest. This puts a worrying number of lives at risk every day because not enough people feel confident enough to perform CPR, despite the fact it is better to try CPR than do nothing at all.
CPR training saves lives. It is ironic that it is a Danish footballer that has highlighted the importance of CPR. After Denmark launched a national effort to teach its populace how to perform CPR in 2005, its out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates tripled.